Featured Story Motorsport

CTMP RaceFest to roar into downtown T.O. next Wednesday

Norris McDonald
Written by Norris McDonald

Canadian Tire Motorsport Park is going to do something that I’ve been waiting for someone to do around here for years.

Instead of holding a mid-week public extravaganza to promote this year’s Mobil 1 SportsCar Grand Prix at the noon hour, as they have in years past, CTMP has opted to move the promotion to the early evening.

RaceFest, as it’s called, will now be held next Wednesday evening at Yonge-Dundas Square between 5 p.m. and 8 p.m. Ten (count ‘em, 10) drivers who will be competing at Old Mosport a few days later on the weekend of July 6-8 will be there to meet fans and sign autographs and there will be race weekend ticket give-aways, displays and other prizes.

For years, RaceFest was held on the Square at noon and it attracted some attention but not a lot. Why? Because people are in the middle of their work day and out for lunch and they don’t have a lot of time to hang around.

I’ve been similarly curious about the Honda Indy Toronto. Even back in the days when Molson was the sponsor, they would hold a full day of practice on Friday of race weekend involving the headliner Indy cars as well as the support series and there would not be a lot of people there for the exact same reason: it’s a work day.

So in 2007, I went to Cleveland for what turned out to be the last Cleveland Grand Prix. Sanctioned by the Champ Car World Series, it also turned out to be the last race Paul Tracy won in his long and illustrious career.

But what caught my attention (other than the nearby Rock ’n Roll Hall of Fame) was that on the Friday, when there was no admission (much like Fan Friday at the Honda Indy, which is sponsored by the Ontario Honda Dealers in support of Make-A-Wish Canada), they didn’t put cars on the track till 4 p.m. and continued with practice until 9 p.m., when the sun started to go down.

I asked an organizer why they did it that way. “People are at work on Friday and don’t have time to come to the track,” he said. “But this way, the practices are being held after work so they wander down (to the circuit at Burke Lakefront Airport) and spend a few hours before going home.

“They don’t have to  pay to get in and we’ve found that many of them discovered they enjoyed watching the cars race and they came back on the weekend and bought an admission.”

Brilliant, I thought – and continue to think.

Now, I know there is not going to be any racing going on at Yonge-Dundas Square next Wednesday evening but I’m still impressed that CTMP has opted to go in this direction. People will have more time to look at the displays and the pit stop competitions and learn about what’s going to be happening at CTMP at the weekend.

What will happen at the weekend, of course, will be Canada’s biggest sports car race of the season. Before the exotic prototypes and high-tech GT race cars hit the legendary track located just north of Bowmanville, race fans and media will get a preview of the race weekend excitement at RaceFest.

RaceFest highlights will include:

  • Live Pit Stop demonstrations by the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship factory Corvette Racing GTLM team.
  • IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship race cars on display including the Acura Team Penske prototype, JDC-Miller Motorsports prototype, Ford Chip Ganassi Racing GT, plus cars from the Continental SportsCar Challenge and the IMSA Prototype Challenge.
  • Race driver appearances and autograph sessions, featuring some of the best sports car drivers in the world including 2017 WeatherTech Sportscar Championship winning driver Ricky Taylor; Corvette Racing’s Jan Magnussen, Antonio Garcia, and Oliver Gavin; Christina Nielsen – the first female driver to win a WeatherTech SportsCar Championship series title; Canadian Kyle Marcelli with teammate Austrian Dominik Baumann; Canadians Jesse Lazare and Anthony Simone; and Peruvian Rodrigo Pflucker.

That’s next Wednesday, starting at 5 p.m. at Yonge-Dundas Square.

I hope to see you there.